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3 Design Challenges Caitlin Wilson Faced When Building Her Home

Photo credit: Caitlin Wilson

Here’s a thing we did that, in retrospect, doesn’t make a lot of sense: We designed a nursery adjoining our primary bathroom. If you’ve ever lived through a renovation, you know why that was a bad idea. Renovation timelines grow—in our case, faster than babies.

As it turns out, this hiccup became more of an opportunity than a challenge. That’s not always the case, however, and now that we’re midway through the process, I thought it might be helpful to share three hurdles we’ve faced along the way. I hope my lessons learned will educate, inspire, and prepare you if and when the time comes for you to embark on a renovation of your own.

1. We were surprised by a structural issue.

I assume most people don’t have parts of their house that are grandfathered in, but we really lucked out with our porte-cochere, a unique addition that allows our home to extend a little closer to the lot line we share with our neighbors.

I love the architectural element the porte-cochere adds to our home. Originally built on French homes and palaces during the reigns of King Louis XIZ and XV of France, the porte-cochere was designed to be a gateway for horses—and later, cars—to drive through into an interior courtyard.

We were excited to refurbish the porte-cochere as part of our renovation, but, unexpectedly, it collapsed when some of the workers were standing on it to remove bricks from the main house. Fortunately, we have insurance to cover the expenses from their accident. Without it, rebuilding the porte-cochere would be a big financial expense.

Lesson learned: Navigating insurance for structural issues like this one can be complicated. Before you start your renovation, have a frank conversation with your builder about what insurance will cover, and expect that there could be reasons for using your policy.

2. We received the wrong windows.

When our front windows were ordered, the dimensions were based on another window in the back of the house. Unfortunately, that window was not the same size as the front windows. If our builder reorders the correct size at this point, it will add months onto the timeline, and I’m not willing to wait.

Sometimes, you just have to look on the bright side. With this snafu, I found plenty of light: Inside the home, smaller windows give us more wall space to hang paintings. On the exterior, smaller windows give us more space outside for decorative landscaping, like planters with topiaries. As a result, I think we’ll end up using the front lawn more, which has a beautiful view of the park across the street.

Photo credit: Caitlin Wilson

Photo credit: Caitlin Wilson

3. Life happened.

Because our baby will be 18 months old when we move in and a nursery adjoining our bedroom is no longer a necessity, I was able to rethink that space.

At first, we considered turning it into an entertainment room for the kids, but that wasn’t ideal. If the TV is going to be used frequently, it doesn’t need to be in a room with a lot of light. The space off our bedroom has lovely light and a beautiful view of the backyard. Plus, I want our bedroom to be a cozy, peaceful escape—an idea that runs counter to kids gathering to unwind and play with electronics.

I like to stay up late and get up early to work, so I was inspired by this idea of ​​having a seamless flow between my bedroom, bathroom, and office. That way, I don’t wake up any kids or I’m not working downstairs in the kitchen when everyone else is in there, too. Claiming that space near our bedroom for a “cloffice”—part office, part closet—felt like the right move.

We still need a space for the kids to hang out, especially as they get older, so we’ve decided to raise the roof and add a flexible, third-floor space for them and their friends.

With each of these renovation trials, one thing is clear: You don’t always get what you asked for. If you can roll with the punches, the final result is usually worth the wait—and sometimes better than you expected.

This story is part six of ours Along for the Revival series with Caitlin Wilson. Get caught up with the rest of the series here.

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